For Sporting KC, the third time is definitely the charm. After being knocked out of the playoffs the past two years by the Houston Dynamo, Sporting was able to defeat the Dynamo in the Eastern Conference Championship to book their place in the MLS Cup Final. It will be Sporting’s first appearance in the Cup Final since 2004.
For the past two weeks the match was being hyped up to be one of the best games of the 2013 MLS season, and it lived up to the hype. After a pre-game performance from Kansas City rapper Tech N9ne, the game began with a goal in the first three minutes. After Sporting was unable to clear the ball in front of their goal, Brad Davis found Boniek Garcia open on the right side, who cut into the box and took a shot. His shot took a massive deflection off of defender Matt Besler, and trickled cross the goal line. It looked as if Houston would once again knock Sporting out of the playoffs.
It took Kansas City 11 minutes to find the equalizer. Benny Feilhaber picked up the ball in midfield and ran towards the Houston backline. His run was stopped by the Houston defense, but defender Bobby Boswell’s clearance fell right at the feet of C.J. Sapong, who was able to hit the ball first time past Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall.
Sporting KC played an exceptional game, with both Feilhaber and Graham Zusi leading the offense. Feilhaber played arguably his best game this year. His ability to open up the Houston defense was a huge advantage that Sporting needed to get through Houston. Houston’s midfield was almost non-existent the entire 90 minutes.
It looked like Houston was going to take the lead in the 30th minute. Corey Ashe found himself open on the left side of the pitch, and played in a great cross to Cam Weaver. But Weaver’s shot went way above Jimmy Nielsen’s goal, keeping the game tied at 1-1.
Sporting would have a few chances to take the lead as the first half came to a close, with their best chance coming in the 44th minute. Dom Dwyer was able to get behind the Houston backline and play a cross to Sapong. But his cross was too far behind Sapong, who couldn’t connect with the ball. The first half would end 1-1, but for all 21,650 in attendance (which is a stadium record), they felt like Sporting had a second goal in them.
That goal would come in the 63rd minute. Zusi took a pass from Paulo Nagamura and easily got through the Houston midfield. He found Feilhaber who dribbled straight at the Houston defense. He played a perfect ball over the top of the Houston defense that landed at the feet of Dwyer. Dwyer was able to feint past the last Houston defender, and score the game winner, sending Sporting Park into a frenzy.
With the 2-1 win, Sporting KC will now play in the MLS Cup Final on December 7th at Sporting Park in Kansas City. They will face either the Portland Timbers or Real Salt Lake.